Eco Friendly Shoes – What To Look For

Eco-Friendly Shoes
CC flickr photo courtesy of skippyjon

When I was a kid in the 70s, my mother showed me a sandal that she said was an “earth shoe.”  I had no idea what this meant, but it was a leather sandal with a strange high arch, and a big change from the high-heeled Candi’s she usually wore.  I don’t know what made that shoe an “earth shoe” but today I often think about my shoe purchases in regards to whether or not they are eco-friendly. Determining which shoes are the most eco-conscious is a complicated issue, and the answers aren’t often very clear. And let’s be honest… we all know fashion comes at a price.

How our products are made, where they are made, and what they are made of can all contribute damage to our environment.  When it comes to shoes, the issue is complicated because of the needs involved, including durability, comfort, and style.  For instance, there are many people concerned about the use of animal hides used in the making of a large majority of shoe wear, and yet the durable alternatives to leather are few, and quite costly. While natural, leather can also use toxic chemicals in the tanning and manufacturing process, such as chromium.

The cheaper alternatives often do not last and necessitate the use of harsh chemicals. Leather is a natural material, after all.  While vinyl (PVC) seems to be the next easiest choice, as it doesn’t include animal products during manufacturing, it does require the use of petroleum and produces toxic chemicals like dioxin.  Shoes are a necessity in our society.  So what choices do we have as both nature lovers and fashion mavens?

There are shoes on the market that do not use animal products, nor use harmful chemicals in the production process.  SIMPLE is a shoe company that puts the impact of their products on the environment above any other factor, and creates their footwear from all types of natural, non-animal or recycled materials.  There are soles made from recycled carpet padding and tires, and uppers made from certified organic cotton as well as reclaimed wool.  Most of the styles are casual, and are limited to sneakers, although there is a high, more stylish boot offered currently.  Patagonia also offers shoes similarly constructed from reused or organic origins, as does Teva.  Links to several companies making environmentally sound or fair trade shoes are:

Simple – www.simpleshoes.com

Patagonia – www.patagonia.com

Timberland – www.timberland.com

Merrell – www.Merrell.com

Teva – www.teva.com

Another great resource are online shoes stores that host many companies, like Planetshoe (check out their “Eco” category) and Zappos (filter by “Eco-Friendly” under “Features”), both of which offer eco-friendly and vegan shoes from many different retailers. The drawback to almost all types of eco-friendly shoe is that they look very casual.  This is tough for those who either are working in a professional field where dressier attire is expected, or for someone to whom style is very important.  For those people, there are a few other alternatives to consider.

One way to purchase shoes that is more earth-friendly than pulling the latest hot leather pump or wedge off the shelf at a department store is to choose a second-hand shoe.  While the feel of strapping on the hottest new look is momentarily satisfying, almost all trends are a recycling of something done before with a tweak here or there. So, searching the best consignment shops or even a good thrift store can result in finding a great pair of sexy heels without introducing any new waste or chemicals into our environment.

One last important idea to consider when making both environmentally better choices and craving that latest pair of hot shoes:  longevity. Grist.org, a green news source, cites how shoes generally have short life spans. This is largely due to not only how quickly fashion magazines fuel our desire for the next hottest look, but also how comforting it is for most women to shop for an item that almost always fits perfectly, unlike a pair of skinny jeans. Choosing a few really good pairs of shoes that are high-quality, durable, inherently stylish and that you will be happy wearing for many years, may be the greenest choice of all.

Truly Organic Kids Clothes: Where to Find


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GOTS-Certified Logo

You’re probably wondering if buying organic kids clothes is better for your children. The answer is: it depends.

You may be surprised to learn that the current U.S. label of “organic” on clothing only refer to how the fabric was grown — it does not cover the processing and manufacturing that the fabrics undergo after harvest. The USDA  clearly states this on page 11 of the National Organic Program Final Rule [PDF].

So just because that cute onesie you bought for your baby says “made with 100% organic cotton” it does not mean it is nontoxic. Harsh chemicals can be used in the processing and dyeing of the clothing. While organic growing methods are clearly best for the environment, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to make sure the end product is also good for your family. There are several certifications out there that do cover the processing of fabrics. Look for the following when purchasing organic clothing and bedding for your family: Continue reading “Truly Organic Kids Clothes: Where to Find”

Clothesline users of the world, unite!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Today’s Wall Street Journal writes about how the trend of using a clothesline for the eco-friendly reason of using less energy is running up against many homeowner association rules designed to keep a neighborhood looking “nice.”

The clothesline was once a ubiquitous part of the residential landscape. But as postwar Americans embraced labor-saving appliances, clotheslines came to be associated with people who couldn’t afford a dryer. Now they are a rarity, purged from the suburban landscape by legally enforceable development restrictions.

Nationwide, about 60 million people now live in about 300,000 “association governed” communities, most of which restrict outdoor laundry hanging, says Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, an Alexandria, Va., group that lobbies on behalf of homeowners associations.

But the rules are costly to the environment — and to consumers — clothesline advocates argue. Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by U.S. households, third behind refrigerators and lighting, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration. It costs the typical household $80 a year to run a standard electric dryer, according to a calculation by E Source Cos., in Boulder, Colo., which advises businesses on reducing energy consumption.

Alexander Lee, founder of clothesline advocacy group Project Laundry List in Concord, N.H., says the clothesline movement is “an outgrowth of interest in what-can-I-do environmentalism.” Mr. Lee says he gets more and more email seeking advice on how to hang a clothesline despite neighborhood covenants restricting them.

Ten states, including Nevada and Wisconsin, limit homeowners associations’ ability to restrict the installation of solar-energy systems, or assign that power to local authorities, says Erik J.A. Swenson, a Washington, D.C.-based partner at law firm King & Spalding LLP, who has written about the policies. He says it’s unclear in most of these states whether clotheslines qualify as “solar” devices. Only the laws in Florida and Utah expressly include clotheslines.

One can only hope that parking an abandoned car on top of cinderblocks in the front yard never creates an environmental advantage, because I’m pretty sure that homeowner associations don’t go for that either.

For more information, visit the Project Laundry List site.

Hot Green Handbag

Practical environmentalists can declare their love for the Earth and for fashion following the U.S. release of British designer Anya Hindmarch’s “I’m not a plastic bag” bag.

This anti-excess statement is available online for $15 at www.anyahindmarch.co.uk, or at select Whole Foods stores on the East Coast.

A Today Show blogger reports that she talked with a couple girls who’d traveled to NYC from Taiwan to buy the bag.

Hmmm… flying to NYC from Taiwan to buy a plastic bag replacement? I’m not sure they were doing it for the Earth.

Nevertheless, replacing, reusing or recycling plastic bags is without a doubt good for the environment.

Levi’s Eco-Jeans

Here’s one for all you fashion nuts. Check out this article from the Brunei times about Levi’s new line of eco-friendly jeans. Here’s what they are all about:

The trousers are made with completely organic materials on a production line that uses sustainable production processes.

“It’s not only organic fabric but the other components are also organic; the finish we use is totally organic too,” says Geert Peeters, the vice-president of product management.

“The whole process of how the jeans are made is also organic.”


Bamboo Sheets Make Sweet Christmas Gift!

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Rewenable fibers and sustainable agriculture aren’t really what come to mind when I think of 100 percent bamboo sheets for your bed, but that certainly is a bonus. What I think of is comfy! I’ve seen these things and dream of owning a set! They are really, amazingly soft and wonderful. Also, I didn’t know this before but bamboo has natural antimicrobial properties.

Hey, you ever heard of that torture with bamboo where they…ok, nevermind. I won’t get into that. But really, try these sheets. Bamboo grows very quickly so it is the ultimate sustainable fiber.


Eco-friendly Lifestyle Products at Biome.com

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Shoppers in Australia (and on the internet) have an excellent resource for natural products for the home and chemical free skin care products. Biome.com is an online store that has a huge variety of great natural, eco-friendly goodies. Here’s more information about the store from their website:

We are inspired by the people who want to make a difference, but feel the actions they take will have little impact. We believe passionately that the everyday choices of individuals do have the power to transform our world. The Biome stores are overflowing with learning and wonderful products that not only meet our earth-friendly criteria, but also offer quality, style and value. Visit our store in Brisbane or browse our online shop….

What kind of stuff do they offer?

Here’s just a sample: Eco-friendly stuff for babies, kids, natural fiber bags, natural bed linens, books, magazines, natural pest control, eco-friendly products for pets, natural stuff for the garden, hemp products, and natural cosmetics.

They do indeed have a real storel, which you can visit here: 2 Latrobe Tce (corner of Given and Latrobe Terraces) Paddington, Queensland, 4064, Australia

Biome.com does take some international orders, so feel free to order online. You’ll save 10% in sales taxes as well!


Nandina Organic “Future Fibers”

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Nandina is a unique company that produces a variety of products for the home with eco-friendly fibers they call “Future Fibers.” Nandina fibers are made from organic cotton and plantation grown bamboo. They make robes, towels, and bath mats. Here is more information about their product from their website:

Nandina is a natural blend of certified organic cotton and plantation grown bamboo. The fiber is woven into our Heavenly Bamboo towels, creating the luster of silk, the softness of aged cotton, and the durability and ease of care found in more traditional fabrics. We are proud that our towels have been certified free of harmful substances, often exceeding the highest standards set by Oeko-Tex, the world leader in textile testing for human ecology. With Nandina towels you don’t have to give up luxury to help protect the future of our planet. It’s easy to go green!


Earth Friendly Goods

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Earth Friendly Goods offers some interesting environmentally friendly products including lots of hemp clothing. Hemp is considered to be a fully sustainable and biodegradable fabric, so it’s the way to go if you’re looking for environmentally friendly clothing. They also have products for the kids, for the pets, and eco-friendly accessories, which includes anything from backpacks and wallets, to belts. Their “Knowledge is Power” section has some interesting books as well. They sell stuff on-line, but if you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you can actually visit their store.


The Green Shop, U.K.

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I was seriously impressed by the Green Shop’s collection of eco-friendly gadgets and gifts for the home, kitchen, garden, etc. Their new U.K. based building even has a green design that will include solar thermal heating, photovoltaic solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system and a green roof planted with sedum. The only thing that is a bummer about their business is that they only ship within the U.K.

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Green Home Store

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I was doing some research on environmentally friendly companies and products last week and found the Green Home Environmental store. This week I thought I’d share the find with you all. Green Home sells a ton of cool gifts, gadgets, and useful products for a more eco-friendly family and home. From eco-friendly clothing for infants to low-flow shower heads, this is a great place for practical environmentalists to do their shopping. Here’s their history and mission statement from their website.

We are, as we enter our fifth year of operation, one of the longer-lasting environmental stores and resource centers on the Internet. Our offices are still technically in a garage in the Richmond District of San Francisco, though they have gotten upgraded somewhat. There does still remain some question as to whether it’s actually a garage or a tropical spaceship. That part may never change. It did indeed all begin upstairs, in the living room of the founder Lawrence Comras, with a series of discussions among some of the nation’s foremost environmental scientists, writers and thinkers, about what “green” really means. Brought together through an extraordinary series of serendipitous meetings, this core group attracted others of like mind, until about fifteen of us–some huddled in the garage (we now have heat), others scattered across the country, became the Green Home Team.


The Great Cotton Diaper Adventure

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Last year my wife and I had our first baby. Naturally, bringing another human being into the world gets you thinking A LOT about the future of the world, how you’re going to raise her/him, what sort of values you want to impart, etc. You also start thinking a lot about poop. That is, diapers. My wife and I decided to try out cotton diapers to see how they worked. We also read several articles on “cotton versus disposable” including this great article from EarthyFamily.com. We bought the cloth and made our own diapers, and then we bought a few wool diaper covers from a company called Tikiba. (They’re from Europe but there is a family here where we live that orders them wholesale and sells them from their home.) Wool diaper covers? Yeah, turns out wool breaths, and is about 90% impermeable, especially if you treat it will a slathering of lanolin oil every once and a while. Anyway, I’d say we spent maybe $100.00 total in our initial investment of diapers and equipment. So, baby arrived, and cotton diapers were put into action. Everything worked like a charm, initially.



Continue reading “The Great Cotton Diaper Adventure”

Ethical Shopping Tips

This Organic Clothing blog has some great tips on how to make wise choices when you make your next clothing purchase. They have links to interesting sites, and they also provide an excellent review of the clothing industry, with both the pros and cons of certain brands. Whether you’re interested in choosing eco-friendly materials that will fit your lifestyle, or if you simply want to make a more informed purchase, this is a great site to check out.


Ultra-Durable Work Pants

‘Drylights’ chaps are ideal for the gardener, small farmer, or for anyone who spends time working or playing outdoors. However, if you’re into hunting endangered species like me, the bright colors just might give you away, so watch out! They are quilted and have a tough upvc outer coating to keep out the cold, water, and the dirt and grime of serious yard work.

They come in two attractive colors and were developed by Anna Jeoffroy and Philip Salmon out of their need for comfortable, warm, and durable winter clothing that can stand up the abuses of people who work outdoors.

Healthy UV Ray Protection with Specialty Hats

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While skin cancer caused by UVA and UVB rays is a constant threat, some chemicals found in common sunscreens can also be a threat to your health. These include: PABA, Dioxybenzone, Oxybenzone, and Titanium Dioxide. (See this article for more information)

Using a hat and protective clothing is also an excellent option for protecting your skin without potentially harmful or irritating sunscreens. Landplanfran sells specialty hats that are designed to protect you from cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays with the highest Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating possible. They are also available with specialty sweatbands to keep the sweat out of your eyes. A great idea for folks who spend a lot of time outside, such as gardeners, hikers, etc.


New for 2006: Wacky Biodegradable Socks!

Japanese and American manufactures plan on producing a biodegradable sock for early 2006. They’ll be made from corn-derived fiber and produced in the U.S. They will first appear in clothing stores in Japan. The U.S. Grains Council seems to be behind this unusual sock, in an attempt to create new markets for U.S. corn.

Fox River Mills Inc. of Iowa, W.Y. Shugart & Sons Inc. of Alabama, and Harriss & Covington Hosiery Mills and Twin City Knitting, of North Carolina will be the primary factories responsible for reproducing the socks. They’ll cost about 20% more than regular socks, by the way, but are a supposedly an “eco-friendly” alternative to petroleum-based socks, which, in addition to cotton and wool, are quite common and take more time to degrade.

See the full article here: Biodegradable Corn Socks